It’s a time of chaos in the world of fighting games. These games are usually at their best, in a weekly tournament, in some cheap pint pub, or in a hotel conference room crowded with PS4s and a few CRTVs eagerly buzzing, with a few others. They were ripped from those environments when the tryers played together.The fighting game genre has been hit hard by the pandemic, until now DNF duel The launch is the scene returning to business as usual.
Arc System Works, the adaptation of the wildly popular MMO action RPG Dungeon Fighter Online, is back again, bringing the popular IP to the shiny 2D stage. What’s different this time is that it’s partnered with Auging — the developers behind Marvel vs Capcom 3 — which will refresh those who love fierce, frenzied fighters.
The DNF Duel launched in an ideal release window, somewhere between the big hits of 2021 and the giants expected to arrive next year like Street Fighter 6 and Project L. It arrives at a time when hardcore players are eager to grab some games and show off their skills with friends and the wider world.
DNF Duel – just like any other game of its kind – is all about punching, kicking, stabbing and shooting other players until you or your opponent’s health bar reaches zero. However, the DNF Duel does have some interesting quirks that separate it from the package. Simplified input is the first input you may encounter, and has become a somewhat defining characteristic of modern versions. In short, special actions that used to require a certain level of dexterity to be sustained and done in an instant can now be accomplished with a simple one-way input and button press. Such a long quarter turn fireball punch – now it’s just forward with special buttons. Still, you can choose to use these legacy inputs – doing so will give you a slight advantage that will become more and more important as the game progresses. This creates a great situation where beginners can keep things simple, while those who focus on efficiency can choose to take on the extra effort.
In terms of attacks you can use, you have light, heavy, special and MP skills. The latter is the main drain on your character’s MP bar – a constantly recharging resource you need to keep an eye on as you play. You can also use it to expand combos, making it the core of games above intermediate level. Depleting it completely forces you into exhaustion — not being able to use MP for a short period of time — which greatly limits your options and makes you look a bit like a mug.
DNF Duel’s mechanics initially appealed to those who wanted to avoid the looming barriers to entry for which fighting games are renowned, but possessed the depth to keep the game alive for years to come. Easy-to-enter actions and charging resources will engage newbies and keep them entertained, then slowly and subtly encourage them to start digging into the more complex sides of the game. This is an approach we’ve seen Arc System Works improve on in the past with releases like Granblue Fantasy Versus, and it’s successfully implemented here. It puts the player on a slow ladder of progress that many people probably don’t realize.
If this all sounds a little tedious to you, as a longtime fan of the genre, don’t worry. Speaking of one-on-one action, DNF Duel is probably the dumbest fighting game released in a while, and that’s probably its biggest strength. Each of the game’s 16 initial characters (which, by the way, are the goddamn respectable characters from day one) are filled with absolute crap. It feels as if the team behind DNF Duel sees each fighter as an opportunity to push each character archetype to its limits. This can easily lead to a messed-up game with huge quality gaps between actors. However, after messing with everyone, I think they managed to strike a good balance between unbridled gameplay and a fair baseline.
Take the Grappler for example – their playstyle is in line with their namesake. Super close, usually short-range attacks, but there are several special moves with longer range that can counter-attack if thrown at will. You also have some devastating looting that can lead to massive damage. Classic Fighter – anything your typical Zangief player might fall behind.
But you have an air grab, the ability to charge special moves for extra damage and effects, and if you time it right, an air grab can grab an opponent off the ground, and this otherwise traditional actor turns into a walker , it’s a dream for those who consider themselves fans of that kind of character. Surprisingly, he’s one of the more modest choices compared to the other actors.
As an aerial attacker, Swift Master has some disgusting, dirty avenues of attack that allow you to guess where your next attack is coming from. The Crusader is a burly hunk capable of erecting walls and slamming you relentlessly with massive swinging and vertical beams. Enchantress is a puppet character – literally – by moving and clicking buttons, you can control your fighter and a cub at the same time. This means that with the right positioning, you can hit the ball from both directions at the same time. Arc also gives her a powerful special grab that temporarily stops enemies from blocking when hit. What is the team thinking? The result is a game that will often make you smile and keep you blown away by what each character can pull from nowhere in the right hand.
That means DNF Duel is great fun to play with, with both players pushing a button without thinking too much, and if you’re willing to sit back and decipher the science behind the game’s brutal ferocity, as well as a hilarious audience title. For months, you’ll be seeing videos of the DNF Duel group on Twitter and community hubs, some of which look odd. Damn, some folks in New York got the game a week early and have released exciting combos and wicked mashups. I have no doubt that people will be excited about this game for a while – and it will have an exciting tournament life.
As far as the game modes DNF Duel offers, it’s nothing special. The game has four single-player modes to choose from, ranked and unranked online competitions, typically plenty of tutorial and training options, and a gallery showcasing a collection of art from the game and Dungeon Fighter. This is in line with what you’d expect from a modern fighting game release today – a multiplayer component acting as the main game after 10, 20 or 1000 hours. That’s not to say, however, that offline in DNF duels is worth completely ignoring.
Story Mode is obviously a first stop for anyone with a history of dungeon fighters and love for the world-building, characters, and narrative that has been written and expanded over the years. In it, you can choose one of the actors and follow them on their journey through multiple worlds and brawls in a brief personal experience that lasts about 45 minutes for each character. There are 15 character stories for you to play, for a total of about 11 hours, where you’ll get a healthy mix of one-on-one combat, text-based dialogue between characters, and the occasional beautiful artwork.
It’s not the richest offering we’ve seen from the single-player story mode, apparently intended to serve as an introduction to the world of Dungeon Fighter, while also occasionally hinting or nodding to IP fan club familiarity with places or characters, but mostly. As someone who isn’t fully familiar with the world, the vocabulary hints through this mode do help connect some of the themes that aren’t overly fleshed out, but frankly the game still mentions things like “order” at some point Something as if it’s a big deal, you’ll shrug and keep chatting. Obviously, this isn’t the best way to indulge yourself with new discoveries in a Dungeon Fighter-related narrative, so if you’re looking for something deeper for this setting, your best bet is to jump back into the MMO. That being said, you do need to do it at least once to unlock the full cast, so you’ll be forced to experience it for yourself.
You also have an arcade mode so old players can pretend we’re still in the 90s despite the arcade mode joke, it’s a pretty competent mode with eight stages per run and the ability to choose your next battle for the player An ounce of choice. If that doesn’t make you feel hot and annoyed, there’s also a survival mode! Here, you can choose from three courses with 15, 30, and 100 battles, the deeper you go, the harder it gets. I’m not going to beat around the bush here, I didn’t finish 100 stages; I was in my mid-30s before I got caught up in the process. Thankfully, my progress wasn’t lost thanks to an auto-save feature between each battle, which is great news for those looking to topple this particular challenge.
Rollback network code is there when it comes to online multiplayer, damn it’s good here. Playing from the UK to New York City was great, and I didn’t experience game-breaking jumps or out-of-sync. This is the most important aspect of the game for many, and it’s comforting to see it implemented so well here. This ensures that players who love DNF Duel can play high-quality matches from near and far, which is critical to the game’s long-term value. Plug in the ethernet cable and you’re good to go.
As far as the other products in DNF Duel, you have the Gallery, which is essentially a collection of DNF Duel and DNF Duel’s original art. Obviously, this is for super fans. One thing I’m not sure about is the gold requirement to unlock this batch of official artwork. Why lock them up? Aside from online avatars, this in-game currency is not used for anything else in the game. The crowd who want to see all the art is likely to be those who already plan to put in a lot of time in the game, so for everyone else, it’s a playground bonus. After a few games, the occasional little prize is fine, but once you’re out the door, it’s useless.
DNF is a puzzling mix of well-implemented accessibility options that make it pleasing to the original sip. Keep drinking and you’ll come across a dizzying combination of strong flavors that will surprise everyone, surprise some and disgust others. Drink deeper and you’ll see the full depth of the cup – subtle shades that you can spend hours figuring out.
In an industry that’s slowly and often clunky toward some vague esports future, it feels as though all games have to be perfectly balanced with big-ticket competitive games, and I’m glad developers like Eighting and Arc System Works are still willing to make Still a bit stuttering, still a bit of a losing game. DNF duels are unapologetic – and fun. It’s obviously a great buy for fans of Dungeon Fighter, and for fans of the genre as well.